Feast Day: October 18
Patron Saint of: artists, brewers, butchers, doctors, glassworkers, painters, physicians, surgeons
St. Luke first appears in the Acts at Troas (16:8 sqq.), where he meets St.
Paul, and, after the vision, crossed over with him to Europe as an Evangelist,
landing at Neapolis and going on to Philippi, "being assured that God had called
us to preach the Gospel to them" (note especially the transition into first
person plural at verse 10). He was, therefore, already an Evangelist. He was
present at the conversion of Lydia and her companions, and lodged in her house.
He, together with St. Paul and his companions, was recognized by the pythonical
spirit: "This same following Paul and us, cried out, saying: These men are the
servants of the most high God, who preach unto you the way of salvation" (verse
17). He beheld Paul and Silas arrested, dragged before the Roman magistrates,
charged with disturbing the city, "being Jews", beaten with rods and thrown into
prison. Luke and Timothy escaped, probably because they did not look like Jews
(Timothy's father was a gentile). When Paul departed from Philippi, Luke was
left behind, in all probability to carry on the work of Evangelist. At
Thessalonica the Apostle received highly appreciated pecuniary aid from Philippi
(Philippians 4:15-16), doubtless through the good offices of St. Luke. It is not
unlikely that the latter remained at Philippi all the time that St. Paul was
preaching at Athens and Corinth, and while he was travelling to Jerusalem and
back to Ephesus, and during the three years that the Apostle was engaged at
Ephesus. When St. Paul revisited Macedonia, he again met St. Luke at Philippi,
and there wrote his Second Epistle to the Corinthians.
St. Jerome thinks it is most likely that St. Luke is "the brother, whose praise is in the gospel through all the churches" (2 Corinthians 8:18), and that he was one of the bearers of the letter to Corinth. Shortly afterwards, when St. Paul returned from Greece, St. Luke accompanied him from Philippi to Troas, and with him made the long coasting voyage described in Acts 20. He went up to Jerusalem, was present at the uproar, saw the attack on the Apostle, and heard him speaking "in the Hebrew tongue" from the steps outside the fortress Antonia to the silenced crowd. Then he witnessed the infuriated Jews, in their impotent rage, rending their garments, yelling, and flinging dust into the air. We may be sure that he was a constant visitor to St. Paul during the two years of the latter's imprisonment at Cæarea. In that period he might well become acquainted with the circumstances of the death of Herod Agrippa I, who had died there eaten up by worms" (skolekobrotos), and he was likely to be better informed on the subject than Josephus. Ample opportunities were given him, "having diligently attained to all things from the beginning", concerning the Gospel and early Acts, to write in order what had been delivered by those "who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word" (Luke 1:2, 3). It is held by many writers that the Gospel was written during this time, the Epistle to the Hebrews was then composed, and St. Luke had a considerable share in it. When Paul appealed to Cæsar, Luke and Aristarchus accompanied him from Cæsarea, and were with him during the stormy voyage from Crete to Malta. Thence they went on to Rome, where, during the two years that St. Paul was kept in prison, St. Luke was frequently at his side, though not continuously, as he is not mentioned in the greetings of the Epistle to the Philippians (Lightfoot, "Phil.", 35). He was present when the Epistles to the Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon were written, and is mentioned in the salutations given in two of them: "Luke the most dear physician, saluted you" (Colossians 4:14); "There salute thee... Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke my fellow laborers" (Philem., 24). St. Jerome holds that it was during these two years Acts was written.
We have no information about St. Luke during the interval between St. Paul's two Roman imprisonments, but he must have met several of the Apostles and disciples during his various journeys. He stood beside St. Paul in his last imprisonment; for the Apostle, writing for the last time to Timothy, says: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course. . . . Make haste to come to me quickly. For Demas hath left me, loving this world. . . . Only Luke is with me" (2 Timothy 4:7-11). It is worthy of note that, in the three places where he is mentioned in the Epistles (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:11) he is named with St. Mark (cf. Colossians 4:10), the other Evangelist who was not an Apostle, and it is clear from his Gospel that he was well acquainted with the Gospel according to St. Mark; and in the Acts he knows all the details of St. Peter's delivery—what happened at the house of St. Mark's mother, and the name of the girl who ran to the outer door when St. Peter knocked. He must have frequently met St. Peter, and may have assisted him to draw up his First Epistle in Greek, which affords many reminiscences of Luke's style. After St. Paul's martyrdom practically all that is known about him is contained in the ancient "Prefatio vel Argumentum Lucæ", dating back to Julius Africanus, who was born about A.D. 165. This states that he was unmarried, that he wrote the Gospel, in Achaia, and that he died at the age of seventy-four in Bithynia (probably a copyist's error for Bœotia), filled with the Holy Ghost. Epiphanius has it that he preached in Dalmatia (where there is a tradition to that effect), Gallia (Galatia?), Italy, and Macedonia. As an Evangelist, he must have suffered much for the Faith, controversy looms whether he actually died a martyr's death.
St. Luke its always represented by the calf or ox, the sacrificial animal, because his Gospel begins with the account of Zachary, the priest, the father of John the Baptist. He is called a painter by Nicephorus Callistus (fourteenth century), and by the Menology of Basil II, A.D. 980. A picture of the Virgin in S. Maria Maggiore, Rome, is ascribed to him, and can be traced to A.D. 847 It is probably a copy of that mentioned by Theodore Lector, in the sixth century. This writer states that the Empress Eudoxia found a picture of the Mother of God at Jerusalem, which she sent to Constantinople (see "Acta SS.", 18 Oct.). It is certain that St. Luke was an artist, at least to the extent that his graphic descriptions of the Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Shepherds. Presentation, the Shepherd and lost sheep, etc., have become the inspiring and favorite themes of Christian painters.